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Caring for the Bird

In response to:

Immortal Bird from the June 13, 1985 issue

To the Editors:

I was not enlightened by Gore Vidal’s review of the two books about Tennessee Williams [NYR, June 13], and found the review distasteful, if not repugnant. However, the question of what is suitable for publication is a matter for the editors of the Review. I write because of what he has to say about Dr. Lawrence Kubie. Dr. Kubie is dead and cannot defend himself and he was a friend and colleague of mine.

I do not know what transpired in Dr. Kubie’s therapeutic work with Tennessee Williams as Dr. Kubie kept such matters to himself. However, Dr. Kubie was a leading psychoanalyst and psychoanalysts do not order patients to do anything and it seems highly doubtful to me that Dr. Kubie “ordered him to give up both writing and sex so that he could be transformed into a good team player.” Also in the light of Tennessee Williams’s dismal last years, why does Vidal write, “happily the Bird’s anarchy triumphed over the analyst.” Throughout his article Vidal quotes a number of instances in which Williams distorted or altered the truth and certainly there is ample reason not to accept Williams’s version of what went on in his analysis.

Dr. Kubie did not take down his shingle and retire from shrinkage. When he left his practice in New York, he did so to accept the position as Director of Psychotherapy at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland, a very important position in one of the country’s major psychotherapeutic institutions.

I did not agree and still do not agree with Dr. Kubie’s concepts about creativity, but I find Vidal’s snide comments about a man who devoted his life to the care of patients and the promotion of mental health highly offensive.

Theodore Lidz, M.D.

Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Gore Vidal emeritus replies:

I am saddened that Dr. Lidz was not “enlightened” by my review, but not all darkness is penetrable, particularly that generated by, if I may say so, his own peculiar calling. Perhaps “ordered” was too strong a verb. Certainly Dr. Kubie gently hinted. … Is that better? God knows Tennessee dramatized his own life; and he certainly got things wrong, but he was never a liar. As for Dr. Kubie, I draw the readers of this review to his appearance, under the name Dr. Sanford Kubie, in a forthcoming novel, October Blood by Francine du Plessix Gray. Here they will see Kubie as many people at the time did—a slick bit of goods on the make among the rich, the famous, the gullible.

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